Mon, May 30, 2011 - Page 11 News List

FEATURE: Osim eyes Asia expansion on rising health awareness

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

“Sipping a cup of coffee [on the sofa] and chatting with your friends … Relaxation is the new fashion. Enjoying a massage, enjoying the new fashion,” Taiwanese model Lin Chih-ling (林志玲) says in a massage sofa commercial for Osim International Ltd (傲勝國際).

In another TV commercial, actress Chen Mei-fong (陳美鳳) says: “I have many items of clothing, but if you want to ask me which one is the most comfortable, no doubt it is Osim’s shoulder massager.”

Stan Shih (施振榮), the founder of Acer Group (宏碁集團), recalled at a Taipei forum in 2007 that he came across a massage chair made by Osim a decade ago and mistook it for a sophisticated Japanese product.

Shih was surprised when he found out during a business trip to Singapore that Osim was actually a Singaporean brand. He has an Osim massage chair at home.

Osim is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Asian healthcare and lifestyle industry.

The company first came to -Taiwan in 1987 when it set up counters at Pacific Sogo Department Stores (太平洋崇光百貨). Osim now has specialty stores across the nation that beckon to passing customers to come inside, take a break and enjoy a massage.

“We have been in Taiwan for 25 years. Some of our promoters joined us as young ladies, and now are mothers,” Ron Sim (沈財福), Osim founder and chief executive officer, said at a May 19 conference in Taipei held to brief investors about its share-listing plans.

He said Taiwan — along with Hong Kong and China — was a very important market to Osim as it branches out from Singapore, a city-state with a population of just 5.1 million.

Osim’s predecessor was R. Sim Trading Co Pte Ltd, a distributor that sold handheld massagers and foot reflexology rollers. It was founded in 1979, when Sim was 20 years old.

Sim decided to distribute his products in Hong Kong in 1986, a year after Singapore was hit by a financial crisis.

“Singapore was a small market, and the population was not large enough to sustain the business,” he said.

Keeping a startup alive amid difficult economic times showed Sim that his distribution company had found a niche. This realization gave birth to the Osim healthcare brand in 1994.

Sim said he had to venture into branded business to manage “the company’s own fate.”

In 1995, it launched into a joint venture with Daito Electric Machine Industry Co, a Japanese contract maker of Osim, by taking up a 30 percent stake in the manufacturing plant in Suzhou, China. This provided Sim with a research, development and manufacturing unit, and made him a priority when it came to getting orders dealt with.

Spicing up Osim’s offerings with a “blockbuster” product launch every three months is a surefire way to keep customers coming back, Sim said.

One of its products, the iSymphonic — the industry’s first massage chair that synchronizes massage and music — was voted “Invention of the Year” by Time magazine.

There are new products in the pipeline, including an Internet massage chair, special edition massage chairs for fashionistas and music lovers and an ambient air purifier.

Today, the Singaporean firm claims to be a leader in the “well-being and lifestyle” industry, with five brands — Osim, GNC, RichLife, Brookstone and TWG Tea — promoting products from massage chairs, treadmills, air purifiers and vacuum cleaners to health supplements and high-end tea products.

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